With the cost of groceries continually on the rise, I HATE food waste! Yes, we were guilty of throwing away a tremendous amount of spoiled (or soon to spoil) food. I just didn’t realize how much until I started paying more attention to the waste. It’s just the two of us here, so sometimes it’s difficult to prepare just the right amount of food. Most days we plan on having plenty of leftovers for another meal, such as when we cook a roast or a large main dish. Because who in the world wants to spend all that time cooking only two servings of a meat or a meal for two?
We are not alone on the food wasting issue, though. According to information on https://www.nrdc.org/sites/default/files/wasted-2017-report.pdf…
“All told, America throws out more than 1,250 calories per day per person, or more than 400 pounds of food per person annually. That’s a loss of up to $218 billion each year, costing a household of four an average of $1,800 annually.”
For our family of two that’s an average of $900 annually or $75 monthly.
That’s a WHOLE lot of money!
That’s a WHOLE week’s worth of groceries for us!
But when we do have leftovers, planned or otherwise, we end up with containers and packages stuffed in the fridge, that somehow get lost in the shuffle to the nether regions of the refrigerator. Invariably, I’d end up throwing away partial packs of lunch meat, miscellaneous containers of leftover vegetables or meat, or half an onion or cucumber. You know the stuff I’m talking about….all that money dumped in the trash.
I finally decided to do something about it. It’s difficult for us to plan ahead for meals, because some days, we just don’t feel like cooking, or are not hungry enough to make a full meal. Since I don’t sit down and plan our meals for the week, I don’t have that guideline to follow to keep track of how old the leftovers are. However, I needed something to keep track of when prepared food was put in the fridge, plus the frequency of our favorite meals in rotation. If we try new recipes, I want a place to note whether or not we liked the meal.
Monthly Menu Record
The first step I took was to make up a handy-dandy little Monthly Menu Record. It actually turned how to be pretty helpful. I’ve changed my original chart up a little bit to share with you, to reflect the way I currently use mine. You can tape it on the refrigerator door like I do, or maybe tape inside a cupboard door out of sight, but still easily accessible.
It’s super easy to use! First, write the name of the month on the line at the top. I added plenty of lines to this record, in case you might need extra space to make notes for a meal, so write in the date as you go. After cleaning up the kitchen, I’ll write down what we fixed to eat. I use abbreviations for most of the foods so that I have room to note all of the foods. Find the link at the bottom of the page for your FREE printable.
The last column is titled Batch, short for Batch Cooking. We don’t have desserts very often, but when we do, it’s usually something that will last two or three days. Or if I am preparing a meal that includes rice or beans, I will cook extra to use for a meal a couple of days later. Sometimes I hard boil 8 or 10 eggs for snacks or to slice to add to salads. That’s the sort of thing I list under Batch. For example, write rice in the Batch column on the line of the date that you cooked extra for another meal. Then you know you need to plan to use that rice in another dish within two or three days.
I’m working on a series to share with you on Batch Cooking, where I will explain more about the process and how it can make preparing meals much quicker and make your life so much easier. Guaranteed!
More Ideas to Avoid Food Waste
We have incorporated a few other ways to avoid waste that might help your family, too.
- One of the simplest steps to start with, is to watch portion sizes and not overfill our plates. Because, well, sometimes “our eyes are bigger than out stomachs”. Much easier to do now that I’m trying to lose some weight.
- Cut up the leftover roast and vegetables with the yummy gravy into small pieces and put in a freezer container for Homemade Vegetable Beef Soup. When you’re ready to make the soup, just add some bagged frozen mixed vegetables. Yummy!
- Or collect your own leftover vegetables in a freezer container for the soup. Corn, green beans, peas and carrots are perfect, even if they have already been buttered. That’s just more flavor for your own homemade soup! These vegetables would work equally well in a Stirfry or Lo Mein.
- Little bits of cooked meat can be cut up and froze to later be added to omelets, soups, etc.
- Start with leftover macaroni to make a Pasta Salad. Pour on a little Italian salad dressing and then add diced tomatoes, maybe some olives, or diced ham. Pepperoni slices cut in half would be good too, if you have some on hand.
- Transform leftover spaghetti noodles into Stirfry or Vegetable Lo Mein with a little stirfry sauce, carrots, bell peppers, mushrooms,onions,etc.
- If the loaf of bread is starting to go stale, put the bag in the freeze to later dice to make toasted croutons for salads, or put through the food processor to make homemade bread crumbs.
- Or butter the slices and put on a baking sheet, sprinkle garlic powder and grated Parmesan cheese, then put in the freezer for an hour or so. After they are frozen, bag up the slices and label as Garlic Toast. To serve, bake frozen for approximately 10 minutes at 350 º.
- Make extra French Toast for the freezer. Freeze on a baking sheet first, before putting in a bag. Reheat in the toaster or microwave.
- If milk reaches the use by date, make pudding, yogurt, or pour into a clean plastic quart mayonnaise jar to put in the freezer to use later.
When you find yourself with leftovers, think about how you could re-use them to make a dish or meal with a totally different flavor. You will be surprised at how much less food waste you have in your kitchen!
Grab you free Monthly Menu Record HERE
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